I’m beginning to believe that games have spoiled us. They have made the majority of us into babies. Big ole babies, who are used to being able to receive damage, hide behind something for 3 seconds, completely heal, pop-out, continue the fight, rinse, repeat.
Then you have a games from the Dark Souls” series come along to slap you on the hand, shame you and remind you that, perhaps we aren’t as good at gaming as we thought we were.
FromSoftware’s latest “Dark Souls III” is about to be set loose upon the world, its carrion talons looking for the flesh of long-time fans and newcomers alike. It stands confident, bravado waving in the wind wearing a t-shirt that reads “you died.”
I was pulled from my pampered life in Tom Clancy’s “The Division,” where it turns out all I was doing was gallivanting around making “pew pew” noises and thinking at times that I was playing a challenging game. That is until I received ‘Dark Souls III’ and was drug into gaming hell… an enjoyable hell.
Much like the Cynobites in Clive Barker’s “Hellraiser,” ‘”Dark Souls III” has “such sights to show you” and a multitude of torture to put you through.
I will say that this entry does have the decency of starting off a little easier than the previous two games. It gives you just enough confidence to believe that you are “good” at playing. It is a false sense of accomplishment, as you venture further into the world the game quickly reminds you that it crushes you with a hammer of difficulty. But along with that challenge comes one of the most rewarding games I have ever played.
Lead director, Hidetaka Miyazaki’s latest “Souls” entry finds your character simply known as the Ashen One in the Kingdom of Lothric. The end of the world is nigh, it is up to you to hunt down the Lords of Cinder and retain some sort of order in Lothric.
As bleak and hopeless as the world of “Dark Souls” feels and looks, it simultaneously has a raging beauty built into its levels. I was constantly looking forward to gaining access to the next area, if only to see what new architecture and exploration options it had to offer. The variety of level design goes above and beyond, at an almost hypnotic level in order to keep you deeply rooted in gameplay. While there are a few repeat levels from previous “Souls” games it isn’t anything too heavy handed, or anything that feels forced. There is a horrific beauty built into the bones of these levels that are one-of-a-kind and is something I would happily revisit for future play-through’s.
One of my favorite new features in “Dark Souls III” has to be “weapon skills.” These are special moves that different weapons are capable of pulling off at the loss of focus points. For example some are capable of knocking enemies into the air, or ending a charge with a blast of lightning, or capable of a fierce thrust attack. These powerful attacks are pivotal in the heart of battle, and allow you to try out a multitude of combinations when it comes to pairing them with different shields or staffs.
These “weapons skills” paired with different left hand and right hand combinations make for a totally unique experience for such a small tweak. This leads to a abundance of ways to approach enemies in battle.
The enemies in this game are varied and plentiful. There are a ton of different nightmare inducing enemies in this “souls” entry. I’m pretty sure that FromSoftware stole the enemy designs from the depths of hell. While most games focus on creating the look of an enemy type and a boss or two, “Dark Souls” creates the very visage of a real-world hellscape in each and every enemy that occupies it.
It isn’t just the look of the enemy that varies either, each enemy comes with its own fighting style. Some will come at you like a rabid beast, slashing and clawing feverishly. While others are more calculated and methodical about their attacks. At times it seems they are looking at your controller in order to counter your next move. The AI in this one is varied and strategic, making for an insanely challenging experience.
Those notorious “Dark Souls” boss battles are back and offer the same awesome level of character design. There weren’t very many problems I had with this entry but one of the smaller complaints I had was how some bosses tend to have the exact attack approach as bosses you have fought previously. That isn’t to say all the battles are like that, in fact there is more variety than there is repeated action. This entry has the most challenging boss battles I have ever seen in a “souls” game. There are a couple of boss fights that almost made me hang up my controller and move on to something else. If it weren’t for the beautiful level design and the thrill you get after beating a boss, or completing an area, I would have given up.
You are able to pick your character type and play around with that at the start. While I would usually go with a sorcerer, this time I decided to go at it with an assassin. This has made for some interesting challenges along the way and really gave me an idea of how many ways that there are to play through a “Souls” game. In previous experiences I have finished the game with one character type and never looked back. This time, “souls” offers too much variety to not at least give it a second or third play through.
This is the “Dark Souls” you are looking for. This is the “Dark Souls” you love. The addition of a couple of new tools like “weapon skills” only makes the experience that much sweeter. If I had to rate my “souls” experiences, I would put “Dark Souls III” at my top slot, followed by “Dark Souls 1” and then “Dark Souls 2.” Sure, I might have cried with frustration once or twice, sure my neighbors may wonder if I’m dead or dying, due to me screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” so many times in the middle of the night, but at the end of the day it is the largest sense of achievement that any game has ever offered. Keep the formula the same, keep these games coming. “Dark Souls 3” carries the mad genius of its predecessors and perfects it.